By Krystal Gomez
Advocacy & Policy Counsel
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Joaquin Luna, an 18 year old high school senior from Mission, TX, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, dressed up in a suit and tie, and kissed his family goodnight. Then he walked into the bathroom of his family home and shot himself in the head. In the letters Joaquin left behind, he expressed frustration, disappointment, and helplessness due to his immigration status.
Joaquin had dreams of becoming an architect or an engineer. Like many Americans, he dared to dream the American Dream; he believed that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough. So Joaquin worked hard, studied hard and stayed out of trouble. And, it paid off: He had gained admission to prestigious Rice University. While most hard-working high school students would have been overjoyed with this news, it reminded Joaquin that, because of his immigration status, that he would not be able to work in the country he’d called home since being brought here when he was 6 months old.
Joaquin’s story hits close to home for many Rio Grande Valley residents who remember the days when the border was simply an arbitrary line drawn by unknown powers with hardly any impact on relationships, families, or business. The shock of his suicide has rippled throughout the region and isn’t confined to those who work on immigration-related issues. Today at lunch, I overheard two different groups of people, a group of nurses and another group of workers from a nearby big box store, discussing with great sadness what happened to Joaquin.
This tragic story should serve as a wake-up call….to everyone. The anti-immigrant sentiment that has found a foothold in the country and in Texas isn’t just empty political rhetoric without consequences. It creates an environment that dehumanizes people. At the ACLU of Texas, we are committed to changing the immigration debate from escalating intolerance, hate, and violence. Instead, we urge all sides to focus on our shared values of justice and compassion. Join us in our fight by signing up for our Community Action Network. You can make a difference.